Masks are firmly on as we navigate day-to-day life in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re going on public transport, traveling within our respective areas, and making the most of our time outdoors. Recently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shared on the official site that face masks help prevent people who have COVID-19, including those who are pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic, from spreading the virus to others. So now, mask care has become a part of our daily routine – but what’s the best way to keep your fabric mask clean?
What You Need to Know About Mask Care
We thought it would be great to go to the experts who deal with washing and garment care as part of their job – your friendly local neighborhood laundromat. If you’ve been scrolling along on Instagram you probably know about Celsious, the Brooklyn-based, Black-owned eco-friendly laundromat with that sunny yellow signage. Founded by sisters Corinna and Theresa Williams, Celsious is all about doing laundry the modern way. We spoke to Corinna about some important mask hygiene tips.
All the Pretty Birds: Face masks are our new normal – what are some of the best ways to keep linen and cotton masks clean and disinfected during this time?
Corinna Williams: Wash your cotton or linen masks after each wear (think: underwear, washed after each wear). Place masks in a delicate bag to prevent the ties/ear loops from catching or tangling. Make sure you’re using unscented laundry detergent, especially if you’re sensitive to strong smells. The CDC recommends washing and drying on the highest appropriate temperature settings. Cotton and linen are sturdy fibers, so go ahead and wash on warm or hot and tumble dry on high heat. Finally, store your masks in a clean place while unused and consider using a small drawstring bag to store extra masks carried around in purses/bags.
ATPB: A lot of people are wearing make-up under their masks, do you have any tips to remove stubborn foundation/lipstick stains?
CW: Yes! We know that problem all too well. Our Wunderbar is great at removing oily concealer, foundation, or lipstick stains, and super easy to use: just wet the stained area, rub the stick over it and work it in with a brush (we like to use a soft/medium toothbrush). The stain should already lighten visibly while you scrub. Once it does, make sure to launder as per the instructions above.
ATPB: Silk is a tricky fabric and while you can buy silk masks – would you recommend dry-cleaning or can you wash silk at home?
CW: Silk is indeed tricky. While we understand the impulse to just hand it off to the dry cleaner, we would strongly advise against it – especially with silk masks. Dry cleaning is a procedure that usually involves petrochemical solvents.
The most commonly used chemical is tetrachloroethylene, which is classified by the EPA as “likely to be carcinogenic in humans”, meaning repeated and prolonged exposure to it can cause cancer. Apart from the fact that dry cleaning poses serious health risks to garment care workers who come into contact with these chemicals every day, the solvents your dry cleaning items are treated with can’t be rinsed out like water. There will always be residue of them left on your garments, which your skin may absorb. Or, in the case of masks, you may breathe in.
Thankfully, there is an alternative: Silk is a really delicate fiber that can be washed with water, but requires special care. It should only be washed in cold water, with as little agitation as possible (a gentle hand wash at home) and delicate detergent and air-dried after. With that said, as pretty as it may be, silk is not the ideal material for masks. 60°C (hot) is the perfect water temperature to kill bacteria and viruses in laundry, so you want to go for sturdier materials (like cotton and linen, see above) that can handle the heat.
ATPB: Do you have any fabric mask recommendations to share with us?
CW: We love to wear Backbeat Co., Grammar NYC, Kordal, and our Custom Collaborative x Mara Hoffman masks. They’re all made from sustainable materials, are washable, and support independent brands we adore.
ATPB: Celsious is a laundromat but also has an online store with eco-friendly laundry products – what are some of your best-sellers at the moment?
CW: Our Wunderbar, mentioned above, is definitely a bestseller. Another great antidote to treat pesky stains from wine, coffee, juice, etc. PLUS to brighten whites is our Supersalt. And lastly, dryer balls are always flying off the shelves. They are a fun and eco-friendly alternative to dryer sheets. They soften laundry in the dryer and – if you add a few drops of your favorite essential oil – will subtly scent your garments.
ATPB: How has your team adapted to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and how can we continue to support small Black-owned businesses?
Thanks for asking! Due to COVID-19, we suspended our self-service laundry and switched to a completely contactless, drop-off only service. Pivoting has been extremely labor-intensive, but we’ve been fortunate to have a great team. They’ve adjusted quickly and have been incredible in helping us keep our operations safe and able to serve our community. If you’re in the Williamsburg area, we’d love to see you drop off your laundry with us. If not, you can recreate a little bit of the Celsious experience at home by ordering from our carefully curated online shop featuring eco-friendly garment care.
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